Theatre Amoeba in Action

Workshops and creation around the globe.

What Does IMAGINATION Mean to You?

The Imagination Project: Reflections, Thoughts, and Perspectives from Seul and Robin! Learn about Amoeba Teaching Artists Seul and Robin here.

Theatre Amoeba’s IMAGINATION PROJECT was part of APAC Theatre: an annual festival that brings together students from international schools in the Pacific region.  This year, the Taejeon Christian International School hosted five other schools from China and Korea at the APAC Theatre Festival! Theatre Amoeba was invited to send two teaching teams (Amy & Ross, Robin & Seul) to APAC to introduce the participating students to physical theatre and devising!

Here’s what happened!

Whew! What a wonderful (and exhausting) week!

It is amazing to think about how much can be accomplished in three short days. A recap:

DAY ONE:

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This morning, 60 drama and theatre students from six international schools met for the first time. Nervous high school energy abounded. Students postured and attempted to show how cool they were (and they were cool!) by wearing their best “theatre student” clothes or their swaggest “yeah, I’m here and I don’t care” attitudes.

The students were split into four ensembles of 15, each ensemble with 2-3 students from each school.

At 10am, the first students nervously peeked into our classroom. “Yes! You are in the right place. Welcome!” Students huddled by the door, perhaps planning their escapes, perhaps too wary of the vast empty space of the TCIS Drama studios.

Over each 75-minute workshop, Seul and I (Robin) led students on the first of two Theatre Amoeba journeys. We delved into the world of action and reaction, impulse, and double image. We took the students on a journey from individual statue and impulse work, to group work, to group work with limited text.

We began with walking exercises to build awareness of others and ourselves in space. We focused on balancing the space, the economy of movement, and eliminating the call of movement. We played 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1 (one person moves, stops, two people move, stop, 3…etc) and then used our experience in this game to talk about and further explore impulse.

Seul and I asked students to create statues for “parent/guardian” and “child.” Students moved between neutral and their statues in order to feel what impulse felt like within their own bodies. Then, the ensemble was split into two groups. Groups worked together to find a collective impulse to turn and engage in statues (teacher/student and journalist/interviewee). Students added text and slight movement to their scenes. Finally, we discussed and practiced the Double Image.

In our next activity, students chose a well-known story and identified three to four essential scenes/moments. They then created frozen images for each scene. Through rehearsals, students added some movement and text to these images. Seul and I encouraged students to incorporate Double Images into their work and reminded them to work with impulses in order to change scenes and move through neutral.

In each of the four workshops, students yearned to create quite literal representations of the stories: “Let’s do Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But we only have seven people and we need eight for that story, so maybe we shouldn’t do that?” We sought to subvert this way of working by asking students first identify moments in the story. When students did this, they realized that the most important moments often did not include enough characters.

“Do we all have to be in every image?”

Yes.

Faced with this challenge, students began to think and work in a more chorus-driven, abstract manner. Sneakily, students began exploring the Chorus of the Object and Chorus of the Imagination (which they would be playing with in Amy and Ross’ workshop in the next hour). All of a sudden, students were shoes, mirrors, tables, berries, and –of course- Elsa’s magical powers freezing the world.

From awkward, self-conscious teenagers to creative and confident collaborators working in small 1×1.5 meter boxes: the Theatre Amoeba workshop (1) asked students to stretch the limits of their theatrical perceptions and approach work from a purely physical space.

DAY TWO:

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9am: Students enter. “Oh, are we with you? Sweet!” Ensemble 2 is our ensemble for the next two days.

Our task? Build a 10-15 minute performance.

We began with a warm-up (cat and mouse) that sent the students giggling and careening around the room. We laughed, we played, we bonded.

After reviewing the work from yesterday in both Amoeba sessions, we jumped into exercises and activities to generate ideas and material. The exercises we did all started from a place of physical and unprepared creation. Students were asked to make statues and physical relationships without verbal communication or planning. Then, an observer could say “Action!” and the performers would have to engage in a three to five-second improvisation based on the physical relationship they were in.

“What does imagination mean to you?” From this brainstorming session, students created images: my future, freedom, changing my past, out-of-the-box, dream, nightmare, no limits, invention, Pokémon. Students then expanded these images with sound and motion and created one-minute physical scenes. These became the foundation of our final performance.

After lunch, the students told stories of times when they had used their imaginations. Each student shared a story and then small groups chose one story from their group to dramatize. Seul and I challenged groups to work as a Chorus, changing the space frequently, becoming many characters, many objects, many figments of the imagination. Here, specific physical work began to become apparent.

Our process was not always easy. In the last session of the afternoon, we were all quite tired. Instead of saying, “let’s try it!” students sat in circles talking through ideas endlessly, despite encouragement to put their ideas into action. As a result, we ended the day unable to share with each other, because we had not completed the last bit of work we had set out to do. We all left a little nervous, despite the fact that we had created five beautiful scenes throughout the day.

DAY THREE:

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The morning of day three was a reminder to listen to the ensemble. Seul and I had planned an activity to generate some ideas and material to include in the nightmare scene the students had started the previous afternoon, but, when we began introducing the exercise, a student asked, “Can we rather get back in our groups from yesterday and work on what we had been doing?” Yes! Okay. This was the moment when the students really took ownership of their work and their process. Seul and I stepped back and allowed the students to run with their ideas and their performance. We continued to ask questions and encourage students to think critically, specifically, and physically, but trusted them to develop their own process and performance.

And develop it they did! By lunch, the students had created a performance from beginning to end. It needed some polishing, but our time after lunch provided the opportunity to do that. Students identified moments that needed work and then rehearsed them.

While Seul and I agreed that there were additional moments in the piece that needed adjustment (and a touch of direction), we recognized that the students needed us to step out and allow them to take over the reigns themselves. In the tech rehearsal, our role was merely to inform the students when we could not hear them and to adjust their spacing on the stage. By the end of the day, the students felt full ownership over their performance.

The performance, “Nightmares”, was beautiful. The students were focused, engaged, and expressive. The images and themes present in the performance were clear and vibrant.

Many of our students admitted that they had never done physical theatre in this way before. When asked what they would take away from this experience, many cited the Double Image, the feeling of impulse, and starting from a physical image as a way to devise work.

All in all, the Imagination Project / APAC Theatre Festival 2015 was a resounding success! To read about Ross and Amy’s experience during Amoeba’s Imagination Project and about the power of the high five… click here!

To organize a project or workshop with Theatre Amoeba email: theatreamoeba@gmail.com

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